The Big Themes at Y Combinator’s Summer 2012 Demo Day

8/22/12Follow @wroush

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the items they review. RegistryLove wants to make life easier for engaged couples by aggregating many wedding registries under a single online roof.

Others, meanwhile, are extending existing e-commerce models into new niches. Vastrm is building a “Warby Parker for shirts” complete with a home try-on program, while Instacart offers an “Uber for groceries” service linking delivery people with busy consumers who need to restock their kitchens. Tastemaker is an online marketplace matching interior designers with people who have interiors that need designing.

A few outliers (to be honest, I wasn’t sure where else to categorize them): Coinbase offers a hosted wallet for people who like to pay for things using Bitcoin, the all-digital currency. Rent.io is helping landlords be smarter about setting rents by supplying them with information on comparable apartments gleaned from the Web. And Canopy Labs helps e-retailers and other companies automate the way they analyze customer data, helping to figure out which customers are most valuable and which ones should be targeted with promotions.

Finance

Two of the startups are helping with the fundraising process, but in very different realms: Amicus is an online tool that non-profits can use to turn supporters into evangelists, while Funders Club is creating a marketplace where, thanks to legal reforms in the JOBS Act, accredited investors will be able to make equity investments of as little as $1,000 in private companies.

Two more companies are building software to help traders: BigCalc’s software lets them build simulations to test their algorithmic investing strategies before unleashing them on the market, while Data Nitro gives quants a new Python-based tools for building fancier financial models based on their Excel spreadsheets. SmartAsset, meanwhile, offers a site that helps home buyers evaluate their financing options.

Workplace Tools and Business Communication

Two YC companies are helping to solve paperwork-related problems in the office. MicroEval helps companies automate performance reviews, while Submittable helps workers manage over-the-transom materials such as resumes, blog posts, and contest submissions.

Quite a few of this summer’s startups are out to invent better ways for enterprise employees to communicate. Voicegem has technology that lets workers send voice messages via e-mail or Facebook. Plivo offers telephony-as-a-service that’s allegedly cheaper and more scalable than similar services from Twilio, while Profig offers business phone systems that can be customized from a Web dashboard, and QuicklyChat offers push-to-talk video chat that can sense when colleagues should and shouldn’t be interrupted. Double Robotics is selling a $1,199 telepresence robot that’s basically an “iPad on a Segway.” (A neat but not completely original idea: Anybots, iRobot, and Suitable Technologies are all working on similar robots.)

Travel

Four of the companies are working to apply trendy concepts from the Web-services world to the travel business. Flightfox has build a system that travelers can use to crowdsource their flight searches to a group of 900 experts for a flat fee of $30 per search. GetGoing helps airlines fill up their planes by offering discounted fares to targeted leisure travelers. TomoGuides is publishing free travel-guide apps designed to generate sales leads for local businesses in the targeted cities. And Vayable is an “Airbnb for travel experiences” that connects travelers with local guides and other experts who can provide personal tours and other experiences.

Advertising

Three of the startups in this batch are in the matchmaking business: Tracksby helps brands seeking celebrity endorsements find recording artists and other celebrities who are willing to endorse them, while Virool helps companies with promotional videos distribute them to appropriate apps, social networks, and blogs. Sponsorfied matches sponsorable events such as conferences with big brands looking for sponsorship opportunities.

Meanwhile, two more ad-related startups are helping to upgrade more familiar forms of digital advertising. LeanMarket describes itself as “E-Trade for banner ads”—it brings real-time bidding to … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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